Agreement allows Natives two whales this summer

Posted: Wednesday, June 12, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Two Cook Inlet beluga whales can be killed this summer in separate subsistence hunts under an agreement between the Cook Inlet Marine Mammal Council and the federal government.

One strike will be allocated to Tyonek, a community on the Inlet's west coast. A second strike has been reserved for a group of Anchorage-area Natives.

Proposed beluga subsistence hunting regulations were released this spring after a long process involving biologists, Natives and environmental advocates.

The whales were declared depleted under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act and hunting ceased between 1998 and 2000.

Between 2001 and 2004, only six adult belugas without calves may be killed.

By last June, federal biologists estimated that the beluga population had stabilized at about 386 belugas. That's still down sharply from the estimated 1,300 a decade ago.

Federal biologists planned to take another count of Cook Inlet belugas this week.

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